Job 2: 11-13 When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.
While in graduate school I took a class on grief. Not because I didn’t understand grief, but because I wanted to understand how to help others who are stuck in grief or avoiding grief. For a part of the class, the professor had us look at this passage from the Bible and talk about the things Job’s friends did to help him in his grief. We talked about how they wept for and with him. We talked about how they traveled a long way to be with him and how they didn’t recognize Job because he was so changed by his grief. We talked about how they sat with Job and didn’t say a word for 7 days. Then my professor said something I’ll never forget. He said “Job’s friends did everything right . . . and then they opened their mouths”.
In our society, we want to fill someone’s pain with words. But you don’t have to say anything to help someone who is grieving. In fact, often it is best to just be there and listen.
Over the last several years I’ve been asked multiple times how to help someone who is grieving. This is always my advice:
Just be there
You don’t have to talk
There are no magic words that will take away the pain, so please don’t try
Let them cry, scream or be silent
Don’t judge what they say or do. They are in a state of shock and even the strange stuff is a normal part of the processing
Just be there for them
If they need a hug, give them a hug
If they don’t need or don’t want a hug, DON’T
Remember they are hurting; there is nothing you can say or do to make the hurt go away. Please don’t try. They need to feel the hurt; it is the only way through this.
If you are a practical kind of person, then help with the practical things of life. Do their dishes, clean their house, do the laundry. They probably can’t handle the simple tasks of daily life. Everyone is different; if they see this kind of help as an intrusion, then don’t force it.
When the drama of the loss dies down and you return to your life, don’t forget their pain is really just starting. When you think of them let them know. It’s easy to feel forgotten when the world returns to normal. This is when the majority of the support disappears and letting them know you remember them is a gift.
Don’t be afraid to mention the person who died. Especially to a grieving parent. It may make them cry, but I promise you it is music to their ears.
Share your memories. When someone dies, no new memories can be made with them. You might have a memory they have never heard or didn’t know about their loved one. When new memories cannot be made learning something new about a loved one is a wonderful gift. As I was preparing this blog post, I got a text message from the mom of a young man my son was in school with. They were talking about gym class and he shared a memory of Dawson with her, she turned around and shared it with me. Apparently, her son liked to dive to the ground when they were playing ball in gym class. Dawson didn’t like it and would shout “stoooooooopppp” in an exasperated voice. In that moment I heard a new memory about my son, and for just a split second, it was like he was here with me again.
You don’t have to talk
Just be there for them
To read other posts I’ve written on how to help those who are grieving click here or here
This is a hard one for me to post. It feels more vulnerable. It’s one thing to try and write what you’re feeling and thinking for people to read. Especially when you can hide behind the security of the internet. It’s quite another to say it out loud, in public. But even then there is a level of security with that because you can walk away and it’s over. But when your talk has been recorded and you decide to post it on the internet, where anyone can see it and nothing ever goes away, it’s a very scary thing.
This is my story. It’s personal. It’s hard. It’s emotional. But I share it because I believe I have something to say that can help others.
Last year I had the opportunity to share my story at my uncle’s church.
My Dad’s side of the family was gathering for a family reunion in Iowa where he grew up. My uncle seized the opportunity and asked me to speak at his church. I quickly discovered it’s more nerve wracking to speak in front of family than it is to speak in front of strangers. I woke up that morning full of nerves, I remember saying to my cousin “What made me think this would be a good idea.”
My Uncle Chuck is the one who introduces me in this video. When he asks anyone who’s related to me to stand up, 3/4 of the small town church stood up. (Most were in town for the reunion). You’ll notice my reaction . . . ya, I freak out a bit.
I’m sorry the sound quality isn’t the best. We had some trouble getting the video copied. You should be able to hear it if you turn up the volume, just watch out for the crying baby who’ll blow out your speakers. 😉
I’ve heard from some people that they cannot hear the video. So I’m posting the content below:
I would like to begin today by introducing you to my boys. Dawson, my oldest is one of the smartest people I know. When he was 4 years old I bought him non-toddler Transformer toys. They were rated for ages 8 and up. Dawson eagerly opened the directions and sat down to figure out his new toy. I will say Dawson is the only male I know who willingly reads directions. After a while he brought me the Transformer and the directions. He was having trouble and needed help. It turns out 8 and up does not include adults. It was well beyond my skill level and I was unable to help Dawson. I apologized to my 4 year old, and he sat back down with his directions. It wasn’t long before he came to me with his Transformer completely transformed. As he grew his engineering mind had him building things out anything he could find. He even built himself a Transformer costume. To this day when I need something put together or figured out Dawson is always the one I think of. Shy, sensitive and stubborn, Dawson is entirely to much like me.
Devin, my youngest was born with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. As a toddler if the house was quite, I knew he was into something he shouldn’t be. When he was 3 years old, my grandparents came for a visit. All the adults were in the living room talking. Devin walked into the living room, marched right up to my mom and said “Grandma, give me a dollar”. My mom, a bit taken back said, “Why should I give you a dollar”. Devin very sweetly replied, “Give me a dollar and I’ll give you a drink”. “But Devin, I’m not thirsty”, my mom replied. Devin just repeated his offer. The two went back and forth for a little bit, until my mom finally said reaching for her water bottle, “Devin I’m not thirsty, and if I was, . . . she reached for her water bottle and it was gone! The little imp and snuck in stolen her water bottle and was trying to sell it back to her for a dollar. In that moment I knew I was in trouble. One afternoon Devin proudly told me his 4th grade class voted him class clown . . . twice.
January 22, 2011 was a beautiful and chilly Saturday morning. I was headed out for a photo shoot. The boys and their dad were going out on an adventure. The morning was hectic and chaotic as we were all trying to get ready and out the door. I was rushing around trying to make sure everyone ate breakfast, while also trying to get ready for my shoot. I rushed up the stairs while Dawson answered the front door. I saw the back of his head as he talked to his uncle. As I was doing my hair Devin came up behind me and pet the underside of my arms while smiling his sweet smile at me in the mirror. Eventually we were all out the door.
My client ended up not showing up for the photo shoot, so I headed home much earlier than planned. As a result I was home when the call came in. With that one phone call my world came crashing down. My family was in a fatal car accident. From the moment I got the call time stopped. A day that began full of the promise of family fun became a day of trauma that altered the course of my life.
At the time the doctor told me my boys had not survived the accident I basically shut down. I really don’t know how long it took for my brain to begin functioning again. What I do know was the first few thoughts that crossed my mind became defining moments for me.
The first conscious thought I remember having was the realization that God knew when they were born, my boys lives would be short. In that moment the thought brought me a small measure of peace, because I knew God was in control and I would not turn my back on him.
The second defining thought was a fragment of Romans 8:28. It went through my mind like a flash of lightening. The thought that God would make something good come from all this. From that moment, I have clung to that promise with a death grip. It has been this promise that enables me to continue putting one foot in front of the other. Someday I will see something good come from this pain.
The third defining moment for me was actually a decision I made. Standing, next to my dad, in the hallway of the hospital, I decided I was going to be real with my pain. My thought process behind this decision was that I did not want to hide behind the “God is good, so life is good” attitude I had seen growing up in the church. I wanted to show people that God and pain could co-exist in life.
I don’t know where this idea that the Christian life is easy and free from pain comes from. When people are struggling they are often met with comments like “you just need to pray more, have more fain, maybe you did something wrong”. These comments, this attitude communicate that pain in life equals you’re not Christian enough, you don’t love God. If you just had more faith life would be great. This is such an unbiblical attitude and it makes me mad. God NEVER promised us a life without pain. What he did promise us was that he would be with us in our pain. This is what I wanted people to see through me as I grieved the loss of my boys.
In 2013 I wrote a blog post I want to share with you.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted ~ Matthew 5:4
I never understood this verse. How can you call someone who is mourning blessed? I think someone mourning would think they were anything but blessed.
Then I found out what it really means to mourn. I know what it feels like to be so deep in grief you forget to breath. I know what its like to feel the crushing weight of grief so heavy that you can’t breathe. I certainly didn’t feel blessed. And I still didn’t really understand this verse.
Yet, it was in some of those moments of grief, that I felt God’s presence and heard his voice. It’s hard to describe what it felt like one day to have this overwhelming peace spread through me. To know that it was from God and to hear him tell me he had everything under control. It was a “peace that passes all understanding”(Philippians 4:7) that only God can give.
But I still didn’t understand. I’d lost everything that mattered.
Then the other night I was thinking about all the times God came along beside me in my grief, all the people he sent to pray for me and support me and then it dawned on me . . . . I’m not blessed because I mourn, I’m blessed because in my grief God made his presence known and comforted me.
It’s in the word “comforted” the blessing lies, not in the mourning. It is an amazing blessing to feel God’s presence, especially when he’s all you have left.”
There are so many ways God was with me during the most painful part of my journey. Those first few years were excruciating. The pain was so intense any physical movement required an enormous amount of effort. Breathing became a chore. One afternoon I was driving home. I stopped at a stop sign next to a small country school where Devin had played a basketball game. As I sat there at the stop sign, I realized I wasn’t breathing. I wasn’t holding my breath. I had just stopped breathing. I was so scared to take that next breath, to start breathing again. Because I knew as I inhaled I would not only be breathing in air, but pain as well.
So much of my grieving was done in prayer. Initially I was afraid to sit and pray. I didn’t pray for weeks, maybe even months. Somehow I knew to sit and talk with God was going to unleash a torrent of pain and tears that I wouldn’t be able to control. But once I was able to pray, and that intense pain of grief washed over me, I found the easiest way to deal with it was in the presence of God. I would wander into the boy’s bedroom, kneel over Dawson’s bed to pray and end up curled in the fetal position on the floor crying out to God for help. Every time. For months and years. Even today this occasionally happens. And every time after my tears are exhausted and I can hardly breathe from the ugly cry that just happened, I feel better, lighter and ready to handle the next step.
In those desperate moments on the floor of my boy’s bedroom and in so many other ways I learned how God draws close to the broken hearted.
One afternoon I was sitting in my living room. I don’t remember anything about what was going on, or what I was doing. All I remember was sitting there on the ottoman, leaned over with my arms on my knees. I must have been talking with God. Suddenly this feeling started deep within and spread throughout my entire body. It was a feeling of warmth and peace. I wish I had words to describe what it felt like. It was amazing and I knew it was from God. For the first time in my life I truly understood what the phrase “a peace that surpasses all understanding” really means. In that moment I understood how Horatio Spafford could write words like “when sorrows like sea billows roll, it is well with my soul” only days after all his children were lost at sea. I never understood his song of peace in the midst of tragedy until that moment.
It’s interesting, when you turn to God in your deepest pain, he is there in ways you cannot even imagine. I would be standing in the balcony at church, singing worship songs with tears streaming down my cheeks. Singing songs of praise to God, while feeling the most intense emotional pain I’ve ever know, was such a spiritual experience for me. It was like he was pulling all the pain out of me, leaving comfort in its place. I have no words to describe what it was like, or how close God felt. All I can say is when you take your pain to God, he does not disappoint.
It wasn’t just through these intensely emotional experiences God provided comfort for me. It was through the people around me as well. When we left the hospital the social worker who’d been working with us pulled me aside. She said to me “You have the largest support system I’ve ever seen”. She saw only a fraction of the support that has surrounded me these past 5 ½ years.
Both of my parents come from large families. Growing up I loved having so many uncles, aunts and cousins. But I have never been so thankful to come from a large family as I have since the accident. My mom’s family descended upon us, flying in from all over the country. The chaos of my Greeley relatives was exactly what I needed. They held me up that first week. My dad’s family is a bit quieter, but their support as time has stretched on has sustained me too. I have an amazing family! My large extended family has been a built in support system.
In addition to my family, I have an online family of friends. Several years ago I joined an online photography club. We shared pictures, critiqued each other’s images and grew together as photographers and friends. We laughed and joked with each other. Even though we’d never met, we became family. The support I received from this group of online friends was so evident my family could see how close we were. Shortly after the accident a few members decided we needed to meet. A trip to Las Vegas was planned. Suddenly in the midst of my pain, I not only had something to look forward to, I had something to get excited about. For 3 days we bounced around the desert taking photos. We laughed, picked on each other and had fun. I had a break from the constant pain. For the first time since the accident I felt carefree and the trip was the highlight of my year. I firmly believe God brought this group of photographers into my life when he did, because he KNEW I was going to need them.
Then there was the support I received through friends on Facebook. Yes, social media can be a good thing! Friends from college, high school and even grade school offered me words of support. One afternoon I was having one of my more desperate “help me God” prayers. Crying on the floor of my boy’s room, all I could do was cry out “help me” over and over again. Later that day I received 3 messages from people, all from different parts of my life. Each message told me they’d been praying for me. I began to cherish every single “I’m praying for you” I received. Whenever someone would ask how they could help, I’d ask for prayer. Through various contacts there were people praying for me all around the world. Everyday I would hear of someone else, usually someone I didn’t know, who’d heard about the accident and was praying for me.
The church my family belonged to at the time showed us an amazing amount of support that first week. They supported us in many ways, but one thing has always stood out. Every night for a week at 6pm they had dinner for us at the church. So many members of my extended family came into town that my mom had worried how we would feed everyone. But the church had that all taken care of. In addition to feeding us, those nightly meals gave us an anchor in the storm of that first week.
Another church in town opened up their building to us for the memorial service. We were expecting so many people; our church was not big enough. Over 600 people came to the service. I’m still in awe of the number of people who came to mourn with us.
One of my favorite shows of support was organized by a lovely woman I hardly know. She organized a group of women to leave gifts on my doorstep from December 1st through January 22nd. This is the hardest time of the year for me. Dawson’s birthday, Christmas and the accident day all in close succession are followed by Devin’s birthday in February. This particular year, I felt spoiled and actually looked forward to coming home from work everyday. It made the holidays easier and this difficult time of year more bearable.
I don’t know why God graced me with such a wonderful support system. Especially when I’ve met so many grieving parents who are deserted by family and friends. But through this experience I feel like I’ve gotten a glimpse of what God intended the church to be, a place where people come together and support each other through the painful events in their lives.
I work in a community mental health clinic. The other day one of my clients mentioned that he had learned not to mention his mental illness in church. It broke my heart to hear that. The church should be a place for people who are hurting to find love, encouragement and support. But instead we are too busy living under the God is good, so life is good attitude to be real about our pain, or honestly listen to someone else. I sincerely believe if the Christian community would be more honest in our pain and struggles there would be less of it, because we would share the burden together instead of dealing with it alone. We are to help each other carry our burdens.
There is a scene at the end of the Lord of the Rings movies that I love. Frodo and Sam are trying to get to Mt. Doom so Frodo can destroy the ring of evil. No one but Frodo can carry the ring and at this point in the movie the weight of the ring is too much for him. Frodo collapses and cannot go on. Sam his trusted friend, in a climatic moment in the movie says to Frodo, “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you”. This is what the church should be and this is how I’ve felt these last 5 years. No one can ever carry or take away my pain, but I have been carried through the pain by the love and support of those God sent to comfort me.
One night, nearly 2 years after the accident, I was feeling very sorry for myself. I was working through a Beth Moore bible study on James. This particular evening the word “cherished” kept jumping off the workbook page. In my self-pity I was crying out to God about how much I just wanted to feel cherished. I started thinking about all people who’ve been my support. Then I heard God say to me “see all these people I’ve sent, this is how I’ve cherished you”. Let me tell you that was an experience. I cried for a full 20 minutes. I didn’t stop shaking for an hour! Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be COMFORTED.
Through all this I came to understand Jesus sacrifice on the cross in a whole new way. I grew up in the church. I’ve heard all the bible stories and I know all the songs. I can probably still remember the motions to the songs we sang in Sunday school when I was a kid. But in some ways I never fully understood the sacrifice God made. One evening it dawned on me, God knows what it’s like to lose a child. Worse, he knows what it’s like to watch his son be tortured and beaten, hung on a cross and die. Matthew 27 tells us about God’s reaction. Verse 45: “Now from the 6th hour there was darkness over all the land until the 9th hour.” The footnotes in my bible tell me that’s from noon to 3pm. Right in the middle of the day, and it was dark. If I could have turned the sky dark that day I would have. I’d probably have left the sky dark for weeks. I felt betrayed by the sun when spring came around and the weather started turning warm. Around 3pm Jesus breathed his last and this is what happened verse 51:“And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom”. That’s a very familiar part of the story because it symbolizes the separation between us and God being removed and this is usually where we focus. But it goes on to say “And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.” The first time I really read that after the accident, I read the actions of a Father who was grieving the death of his son. And I could so relate. My world shook to its core. I wanted to scream. If I could have caused an earthquake to outwardly express what was going on internally I would have. Suddenly it all made sense. There are not multiple paths to God, there is only one! And that path is paved with the blood of Jesus. Though intellectually I knew that before. Now living through child loss, it made sense to me in a way it never had before. I understand why God will reject people who reject his son. It’s not because God doesn’t love them, it’s because they reject his son. And his son DIED for them.
Part of being real with my pain isn’t just telling you about all the wonderful things God did for me. It’s also explaining what happened when I allowed my pain to take my focus off God. The last 2 years or so, I have struggled with trusting God. I’ve been through several opportunities to trust God with my future these past couple years. Each time I failed miserly.
The crazy part of me decided it would be a good idea to go to graduate school and get my counseling degree only 2 years into my grief journey. When it came time to find an internship or do a case presentation that would determine if I could graduate I did not put my trust in God. Instead I looked toward the future and saw everything that could go wrong. After all, if God allowed the accident into my life, how could I be sure he would look out for me now?
I let anxiety into my life. I couldn’t sleep or function well. Things got worse as graduation loomed closer and I would have to leave the safety of school and find a job.
I started questioning God’s character. I questioned his motives, his intention and his caring. I would say things like “If I believe in the sovereignty of God then that means he knew the accident was going to happen and he did nothing to stop it. If he’s willing to let something that awful happen to me, then how can I trust he won’t let more bad stuff happen?” I would pull up stories from the Old Testament to show how “scary” God can be. I wanted answers. “How can I trust a God who allowed my children to die?” I wanted answers to this question not only for me but also for all the grieving mom’s who ask “How can a loving God take my child from me?” I asked so many people my questions. I was desperate for an answer. Sometimes I took my questions to God.
Sometimes I need to write my prayers out. I thought I’d share a few from last year with you.
May 9, 2015
Lord, I am struggling to trust you. I want to fully and completely trust you. Yet I am afraid. I’m afraid of more pain and disappointment in my future. I’m afraid to trust because my life has already fallen apart once. I don’t want to go through that again. I’m afraid you will bring me more pain. I’m struggling to believe in your goodness.
I want to see your divine creativity play out in my life. I want to again be excited about what you have planned for my future. I want the peace that comes from fully trusting you. God please help me with my lack of trust.
May 11, 2015
Lord, my heart is troubled and afraid. I am afraid you will not continue providing for me or that my future holds more intense pain. I’m afraid you have more painful lessons to teach me.
God please remove these fears and doubt from my heart. Replace them with your peace. Show me what I need to do to let go and fully trust you again.
June 9, 2015
I’m beginning to see now that in allowing anxiety and fear into my life I abandoned your love for me. In my anxiety and fear the devil taught me to fear you! I have been afraid of you God. Afraid of what you can do in my life. In that fear I gave the devil a stronghold in my life. Lord I pray that you will drive all the anxiety and far from my life! Fill me instead with your perfect love.
September 28, 2015
Am I confident in God? Not fully. I want to be. I know in my head that God loves us and will do anything for us. But there is a seed of doubt. Why? Because I know God does not always step in when we want him to. He doesn’t stop bad things from happening to us. Why? I don’t know. The bible tells us that God is sovereign and everything is under his control. How do you reconcile that to a God who loves you when something horrible happens in your life. Does that mean God wanted it to happen? Does that mean God allowed it to happen? Does that mean it was part of Gods will? Or is it just part of this broken world we live in? I want to have confidence in God! But I don’t know how to deal with the doubt in my mind. The doubt that says bad things happen and God doesn’t always step in. But then God didn’t’ step in and save his own son from a gruesome death. Because there was a bigger picture. The difference between what God knows about our life and what we know is huge. God can see the whole picture. He can see why I ‘ve had to endure the last 5 years alone. Why I don’t get to see my boys grow up. I wish I could see the bigger picture. Maybe that would make it easier to endure. Maybe it would make it easier to understand my purpose in life.
November 27, 2015
Lord, I’m trying to trust in you. I want to trust in you because I know in my head that you care for me. But it’s hard, hard to believe in my heart when I think about the accident. If you care for me so much why did you let that happen? I’m scared my life will always be like this. Are you taking care of me? I want to believe you are. I want so badly to trust you and not carry these burdens. But I don’t know how. I don’t know what to do. How do I let go and trust you. My kids are gone and I am alone. I hate this. God please help me. Help me understand. Give me wisdom. I want to trust you with my whole heart. But it’s broken. Not just broken God, it’s shattered. I don’t know how to put the pieces back together.
And earlier this year . . . .
March 11, 2016
Lord, give me wisdom to understand your role in the accident. Was it your will? Why didn’t you stop it? How do I trust you when you allowed something so devastating to happen to me? But did you allow it? Was it just part of living in a sinful world? How does your sovereignty play into all this? Lord, I just want to understand. If I’m not meant to understand then please replace my questioning with your peace.
Can you see the pattern? I’m afraid of what’s coming, I’m afraid of what’s coming. I took my eyes off God and looked instead to the future.
I started a devotional on Job last month. I was nearly in tears before I finished the introduction. The author made this statement: “The person of faith is one who like Job, knows what it is to be torn apart by the enormity of God”. Wow! That’s how I felt for over 2 years. Torn apart because my God is huge, he’s in control of all things, and he didn’t save me from this pain. How do you reconcile that?
In my years of questioning, and searching for an answer I came up with only one. You don’t. You don’t reconcile that God loves us and yet bad and painful things happen. I wish I could give you answers. I wish I could answer these questions myself.
There are many standard answers I could give. We live in an evil world. God gave us free will. Bad things happen. But none of these soothe the pain in my heart. None of them help me understand why God allowed this pain into my life. I don’t think there are answers that will satisfy my broken human heart. But then if I had answers I wouldn’t need faith.
You see, I don’t think we are meant to get the answers to these kinds of questions. If we had the answers it wouldn’t be faith. Knowledge yes, but not faith. It’s easy to trust things we know and understand. It requires no effort, no faith. Faith is trusting God in spite of the questions and in spite of the doubts. I think God wants us to lean on him even in the uncertainty and doubt. That is true faith.
Recently I’ve begun to realize all my questions were more about me than about God. When I took my eyes off God and looked toward the future, all I saw was fear. I was afraid of more pain and more suffering. When I allowed anxiety into my life instead of trusting God, I allowed a spirit of fear to gain a stronghold over me. In that anxiety and fear I quit spending time with God. Which only made the anxiety and far worse.
I also realized my questions were about my pride. What has happened in my life isn’t fair and I wanted answers. I deserved answers. At one point I even told God he owed me an amazing future. I mean really, how prideful can you be to tell God he OWEs you something. But since I didn’t trust God, I tried taking control of my life so I didn’t have to struggle anymore. In reality my struggle was made worse because I wasn’t willing to let go of my control. There’s a level of humility required to say to God “I trust you no matter what”. You have to be willing to put yourself aside and give God control. That requires submission to his will.
As a result of all my questioning I would beat myself up. I felt like such a horrible person. After all the wonderful things he did for me after the accident, here I was questioning his goodness and love. But I now know, the questioning isn’t wrong it’s human. In the multitude of people I talked to there was one pastor I spoke with who tied my questioning to my grief process. It had not occurred to me that my questions were coming from grief. In that one statement she helped me normalize what I was going through. It’s normal to ask these deep and confusing questions. It’s part of growing and maturing in our faith. It’s part of dealing with the hurt and pain in life. It doesn’t mean I’m turning my back on God or that I have a lack of faith. Like the author in my Job study says, “such feelings are not incompatible with faith”.
For the past 2-3 years I have been trying to be strong on my own. I’ve focused on the future and what could go wrong. I’ve been trying to control the outcome so I don’t have to experience more pain. This has led me to more anxiety and depression than I have ever known. My life has been more difficult and less peaceful as a result. Grief and child loss are hard enough on their own. But I compounded it by walking away from the peace God gave me.
Even in my doubt and questioning, everything God has done to comfort me is still there. My support system hasn’t deserted me after all these years. God is still providing for me. And he’s still there waiting for me to come back and rest in him. Just a few days ago I was finally able to let go of all my questions. I still don’t have answers. But I have my peace back, and that is far better than any answer. My most recent prayer has been: I would rather have the peace that comes from trusting you than answers to my anxiety fear filled questions.
I was recently reminded why that afternoon, when God filled me with his peace, I understood how Horatio Spafford could write the words “It is Well, With my Soul”. It was because his peace came from knowing he would spend eternity with God. The feeling of peace, that afternoon, was more than just God comforting me. The peace came in knowing that I belong to God. That my eternal future is set. That was not something I was sure of before the accident. Not because I hadn’t given my life over to God, but because I didn’t believe God loved me back. But in those first few years after the accident I felt God presence in such a strong and comforting way, I knew without a doubt he loved me and I would spend eternity with him.
Our hope is in heaven. Peace comes from knowing this hope will be realized.
Our lives are bigger than here and now. Bigger than the problems we face today, tomorrow or in the next 10 years. When I focus on the future all I see is what can go wrong. Like Peter walking on the water and taking his eyes off Jesus and only seeing the waves that can sweep him away. When I focus on God I have peace, because even though life is filled with struggle and pain, I know God loves me and I will spend eternity with him. That is where the true comfort is.
I’ve had so many people tell me how strong I am. But I’m not. I cry, I despair, I question, I get bitter and angry. Left to my own devices I would not be standing here today. It’s God who gives me strength. It is through his promises for my future, those he sent to support and comfort me and his hope that I will one day see my boys again I have strength.
“You have the largest support system I’ve ever seen.”
The hospital social worker said this to me as we left the hospital the day after the accident. I still remember the look on her face, a mixture of disbelief and pride. Friends, family and church members had been flowing in and out of the hospital for the last 2 days.
Before we even arrived at the hospital that horrible Saturday afternoon, members of our church had started to fill the ER waiting room. By the time we arrived, my parents and I had to be ushered past the waiting room through staff only doors so those who’d come to support us wouldn’t overwhelm us. Friends had completely filled the ER waiting area. Most were stopped there and not allowed on the ICU floor where we were taken. I never ventured into the waiting area to see the crowd. I was barely holding it together as it was, I couldn’t emotionally handle that. Though I never saw them, I appreciated their presence.
Many other friends, who came to support us, came in through a different hospital entrance. They were able to make it to the ICU floor where my family and I waited for news of my husband. I can still remember looking in the waiting room and seeing them, sitting and talking to each other. I felt like I should go over there and join their conversation, but I just couldn’t. I stayed close to my family because I could not handle any conversation. I couldn’t talk to them, but I was so glad they were there.
The group of friends who came to the hospital shifted throughout the day. Some came and went, others stayed for hours; new ones arrived as word of the accident spread. I appreciated their presence and the fact they didn’t intrude on my need for distance. The social worker who spent time with us during our 36 hours in the hospital watched the ever-shifting crowd of people who’d come to support us. Apparently, they made an impression on her prompting the comment as we prepared to leave the hospital that Sunday afternoon.
Years later I understand why she was so impressed. I could not have made it this far without my support system.
Going to graduate school to become a counselor I learned one of the most important factors for success in therapy is the individual’s support system. It’s not the relationship with the counselor or the therapeutic techniques used, it is the support system that makes the most difference.
I can only imagine the hospital social worker saw the size of our support and knew we would be able to travel the hard road ahead.
In truth, she saw only a fraction of those who’ve shown up to support me on my journey of grief.
Through social media, my online photography club, and my rather large extended family I have been carried through my grief. I haven’t had to do any of this alone.
One night while working my new, I’m no longer a stay-at-home mom, job I had a meltdown. It was one of those bad grief days that I couldn’t contain. I was stuck in a call center customer service job and all I wanted was to go home and cry. But I had to keep answering phone calls. I made some big mistakes that night because I couldn’t focus. I was struggling to stay together so I could finish my shift.
I posted on Facebook how bad my night was going. I watched the slowly moving clock, willing it to move faster so I could go home and break down properly. Finally, the time came for me log out of my computer and leave work. I walked out of the building and started heading to my car, only to discover my parents had come to pick me up from work.
They had seen my Facebook post and had seen beyond the vague words and knew I was doing worse than I’d let on. My mom said to me “We weren’t sure if this would be ok”. It was a little weird, yes, but it was such an awesome thing for them to do. I curled up in the passenger seat of my van and cried as my mom drove me home, with dad following behind us.
This is just one of the small ways my parents have supported me.
The second Christmas after the accident, I wanted to hide away from reality. I couldn’t afford to go on vacation like I had the year before. So I talked my family into hiding out in the mountains with me. My parents found a rental house big enough for us, along with my sister and her family. We spent 3 days hiding from the world. It was peaceful and fun. (You can read about it here.)
I realized my sister and her family had given up all their holiday traditions to hide away with me. I felt bad about taking them away from their traditions until I mentioned it to my sister, she replied, “It’s the only thing you’ve asked us to do”. After all these years I still tear up at the selfless support.
My extended family has been another layer of support. Both of my parents come from large families. Growing up I loved having so many uncles, aunts, and cousins. But I have never been so thankful to come from a large family as I have since the accident. As news of the accident spread my mom’s family descended upon us, flying in from all over the country. The chaos of the Greeley side of my family was exactly what I needed. They held me together that first week. My dad’s family is more quite, but their support as time has stretched on has sustained me too. I have such an amazing family.
I could also go on about all the different ways my friends have shown me support. But this post is getting long. You can read about it (here, here and here).
I don’t know why God has blessed me with such a wonderful support system. So many grieving parents are on this awful journey alone. I’ve heard horrible stories of the things other bereaved parents have had to endure from family, friends and even their church. It breaks my heart when I see how little support some people have.
At the Compassionate Friends support group I attend, we have a saying “Your address book changes after the loss of a child”. It’s so true. People you thought would always be there for you disappear and others surprise you by becoming new friends. Even with my support system, I’ve had my address book change. People I thought were good friends are gone. And others I’ve had minimal contact with over the years became a larger part of my support.
I would not have been able to walk this path alone. I need every single person who has supported me in any way they can. Each one of them has carried me on this journey.
We are not meant to carry the burden of our pain alone. It’s too heavy and too hard. We need people to love us, support us and help carry us through.
This concept is so beautifully demonstrated at the end of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Frodo and Sam are trying to get to Mt. Doom so Frodo can destroy the ring of evil. No one but Frodo can carry the ring and at this point in the journey, the weight of the ring is too much for him. Frodo collapses and cannot go on. Sam, his trusted friend, in a climatic moment says to Frodo, “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you”. This is such a great demonstration of how we are to support one another. No one can ever carry or take away my pain, but I have been carried through the pain by the love and support of those God sent to comfort me.
Kindly callers hurt her, too, with the well-meant platitudes with which they strove to cover the nakedness of bereavement. – Anne’s House of Dreams by L. M. Montgomery
I first fell in love with Anne from Anne of Green Gables in 1989 when my family moved from Minnesota to Oregon. I was 14 years old and anticipating the move. The night before we left, my sisters and I stayed at my best friends house where we watched the Anne of Green Gables movies for the first time. I fell in love with Anne’s spunk and never ending chatter. However we were left with a cliffhanger. Gilbert was sick and dying but we couldn’t finish the end of the movie. I had to know what happened, so I read the books.
It’s interesting what you remember and don’t remember. After all these years all I remembered of Anne’s adult years was that Gilbert was able to get her dream house complete with a stream running through the yard. So imagine my surprise as I was reading through the books again to discover that Anne’s first child was stillborn. In the world created by L.M. Montgomery everything seemed happy and serene. Life was simple and pleasant. Sure the characters went through troubles, but nothing so terrible as child loss.
It’s strange, but I found some measure of comfort in knowing that even in L.M. Montgomery’s day, people did not know how to handle grief. When people don’t know what to do or say, the platitudes they end up offering hurt so much more than they realize.
People sometimes think if they say the “right” thing they can help lessen or take away the pain. But in reality there are no words that can “cover the nakedness of bereavement”.
After the accident that claimed the lives of my only 2 children (you can read about it here), I heard my fair share of “well-meant platitudes”. Though I understood people were trying to help, the following words hurt and minimized my grief.
1) They’re in a better place
A kind older lady said this to me at the reception following the memorial service. I still remember how this statement was an emotional punch to the gut that had me physically take a step back. This statement completely misses the point of grief. It doesn’t matter where my children are. They are NOT with ME and I miss them. As long as they are gone I will be grieving.
2) How can I help? Let me know if I can do anything?
I know people say this out of a desire to be helpful, but really isn’t. My entire world had just imploded. I could barely breath. Getting dressed was an accomplishment of epic proportions. If that’s all I managed in a day, things were going good. I didn’t have a clue what I needed. And if I did know what I needed, I most likely didn’t care. Asking the bereaved person how you can help generates pressure for them to think about and give you ideas. If you truly want to help, here is a list of things others did for me that I found helpful and deeply appreciated.
3) Call me if you need to talk
I had perfect strangers giving me their phone numbers. People I barely knew offering to listen. I even had someone set up a meeting for me to speak with a pastor I didn’t know, just because he too had lost a child. Again, I know people just wanted to help, but this wasn’t helpful. And in some cases it just made me mad.
Grief is an intense and intimate emotion. I wasn’t about to share my grief with strangers or acquaintances. I couldn’t share the intensity of what I was feeling with people I had no relationship with. I would share my grief with my family; friends and those I already had an established relationship with. I did not have the energy to build new relationships.
I would talk with the people who didn’t have to offer to be there for me, because I already knew they were.
4) I know what you are going through because my ________________________ died.
With this statement people are trying to find a way to connect to my grief. I get that. But there is nothing like the loss of a child. NOTHING. Our children represent the future. As parents we have dreams for our children as they grow. We worry over them, take care of them and guide them. Children are supposed to survive their parents. When a child dies this natural order is broken.
Child loss is not the same thing as losing your parent, step-parent, uncle or dog. I once heard that my Grandpa had said he’d lost his parents, a wife and a child and by far the worst was losing a child.
So PLEASE unless you have lost a child, never tell grieving parents you know how they feel.
5) You can have more children.
Shortly after the accident, I actually had someone tell me they were praying I would have another baby by the end of the year.
This statement implies that my children can be replaced. No child can ever be replaced. Each one has a unique personality and purpose in life. Whether or not more children are possible, my children are gone. And as long as they are gone, my grief will exist.
6) This is a good time to reinvent yourself. (Or any version of “Its time to move on”)
Most of the time when people say things that are hurtful, I know they are trying to help and I let it go. But this statement was the one time I let the person know what I thought of what they had to say. I had seen the damage this kind of statement made in the lives of those around me.
People who are grieving a traumatic loss are not in a place to make major life decisions. The best advice I think I’d ever heard after dealing with a huge loss was “Don’t make any major life changes for a year”. It took me 2 years to voluntarily make any changes to my life. But when I did I knew it was the right time.
The problem with trying to make major life decisions or changes right after a traumatic loss is that we are still in shock. It takes a lot longer than people realize for this shock to wear off. It doesn’t go away after a few weeks, or even months. It can take a year or more. It took me longer because I went through a series of other losses after losing the boys. As one of my professors in college stated, “Loss begets more loss”.
Our society is in such a hurry with grief. But grief cannot be rushed. After experiencing a loss, individuals need to take the time to process that grief. It’s not a time to work on breaking bad habits, trying to start a new habit or a time to reinvent yourself. It’s a time to just breathe, cry, and adjust to a life without the loved one who was lost. And that takes time. A lot of time.
7) God won’t give you anymore than you can handle.
This statement. Sigh. I have a physical reaction to this statement every single time I hear it. I cannot smile at the well-meaning people who say it and pretend it’s ok, because I know they mean well. I have to say something, because this statement is simply not true. Nowhere in the Bible does God say “I won’t give you more than you can handle”. But God does PROMISE to be there for us in ALL THINGS.
I think this one needs a blog post all its own.
The next time you encounter someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one and you feel like you need to say something a simple “I’m so sorry” or “I’m sorry for your loss” is sufficient. It may feel inadequate, but it’s the kindest thing you can say.
This blog post is late. The process of going through my oral boards for school took a lot out of me. (There is a blog post on this coming soon). As a result when Devin’s 14th birthday came around, I was still recovering. It took me a week and a half to feel like myself again. Now that I’m recovered (I think) I’m ready to start posting again. 🙂
Devin would have turned 14 on February 26th. I missed his 10th birthday . . . turning double digits. I missed his 13th birthday . . . becoming a teenager. Every time one of these days passes I remember what I’m missing.
Instead of another list of all the things I’ve missed, I thought I would share some memories with you.
Devin and I had our own special way of measuring his growth. Sure we had the standard marks on the wall, where every first and last day of school new marks were added for both boys. But Devin and I did something that was just for the two of us. We’d put our palms together and spread out our fingers. I could see how much he’d grown by how long his fingers were against mine. Today, his fingers would probably be longer than mine.
One night Devin and I were being silly. He was telling me the names of his fingers. Yes, he’d named his fingers. I wish I could remember the names of his thumb and forefinger. But I do remember the names of the last 3 fingers. Billy, Bob and Billy Bob. Every time he named off his fingers, I’d go into a fit of giggles. He kept repeating them, because I kept laughing. It was a fun game.
Devin would often do or say the funniest things. I used to say all the time “you never know what’s going to fall out of that kids mouth”. The other day my sister found an old Facebook post of mine from September of 2010. It was a conversation I’d had with Devin that I’d forgotten about. It made me laugh to remember.
Devin: “Mom you know how Adam named all the animals. Well who made all the words?”
Mom: “God made the words”
Devin: “I think it was Eve”
Such a smart, funny kid.
Because of the way my classes are structured, I was not able to get out of class on Devin’s birthday. This was the first time I was not able to take the day off from my responsibilities and spend it with my family. I knew with all the stress over orals the birthday might end up being harder than normal. Stress tends to exacerbate grief. The fact that I couldn’t take the day off concerned me a lot. I wasn’t sure how the day was going to go, or if I’d be able to deal with it.
My sister came up with the idea of the family coming to class for a visit on my break. I thought that was a good idea, so I asked a few of my classmates if they’d be ok with that. Everyone agreed, so the plan was set. My mom bought a 5 pound Hershey bar, in honor of Devin’s birthday, to share with everyone.
For Devin’s 6th birthday my sister bought him a 5 pound Hershey bar. The candy bar was almost as big as he was. I left it sitting out on the counter and all 4 of us would break off pieces to munch on. One day after school Devin’s kindergarten teacher mentioned to me that he’d been a bit more hyper in class than normal. I knew immediately the cause was the giant Hershey bar. I guess he’d eaten more of it than I realized. Sneaky imp. 🙂
We thought sharing a 5 pound Hershey bar with the class would be a great way to remember Devin on his birthday and celebrate the end of orals. My family arrived and introductions were made. The candy bar was broken up and shared. It was a nice way to spend Devin’s birthday.
As I was driving home from class that night I started to feel weird about having my family come to class. I felt like I had unnecessarily dragged my class into my grief, and dragged my family to my school when they didn’t need to be there. In short, I felt foolish. Like I had made a big production of something that could have and should have remained small and private. It took me a few days to realize why I was feeling this way. I’ve progressed through my grief enough that I can handle these days without the need for a big production. For every birthday and accident day that has passed my family has gotten together to remember the boys with a special activity and dinner at one of the boy’s favorite restaurants. We’ve done balloon releases, lantern releases, launched rockets, worn silly bands, played with Dawson’s go cart, done light painting and we’ve even gone to a MythBusters display at OMSI in Portland. I knew that someday these activities would stop. And though I’m not sure we’ve reached that point, it’s nice to know I don’t NEED them anymore.
2014 is almost over. There are only a few days left, and I have to say, I am so happy this year is over. It’s been a very hard year for me. It’s been a year full of grief and stress, and I’ve never been so happy to see a year come to an end.
You can read about why this year has been so difficult here.
But as this difficult year draws to a close, I am reminded of the attitude I had at the end of the hardest year of my life.
At the end of 2011, I sent out my annual Christmas cards and letter. I wanted to say thank you to all the friends and family who had been so supportive throughout the year. But I also wanted to end the year with hope.
The following is an excerpt from that letter:
“Without a doubt this has been the hardest year of my life. I’ve lost everything that gave me purpose and made me who I was. Everything I knew and understood about my life is gone. I’m left with only these 3 things: my photography, family/friends and my faith in God. I have faith that God has been with me through everything and faith that he has brighter plans for me in the future.
A few years ago I asked the boys a question each night as I tucked them into bed. I asked them “What was your favorite part of today?” My goal was to get them thinking of the positive things even if they’d had a bad day. Of course this practice only lasted a week or so. But I’ve been thinking of that question a lot these past few weeks. Only the question has changed to “What was your favorite part of this year?” Believe it or not I can answer that question. With everything I’ve lost and gone through this year I can still find positive things. I think the boys would be proud of that.”
I reread my Christmas letter and was amazed at the faith and positive attitude I had that year. Though my faith in God has never wavered, my trust in God has. I know that seems like a contradiction. Having faith in God with my grief is easy, it’s the only way I can survive this. But it’s the trust in the little things of life that is harder. God has been teaching me to trust him in the little things this year. It’s a hard lesson I am still learning.
It is so strange that in the year 2011 I could easily find things that were good. I had experienced the worst thing a parent can imagine, I was still reeling from the tragedy. Yet I was still able to find something good from that year.
But this year it’s harder for me to find something good. When I look back on the year all I can see is anxiety, stress and grief. Yet because it’s been such a hard year, I’m feeling the need to ask myself this question again, to find something good out of this year.
Three things come to mind when I try and find something good from this year: my photography club, my first speaking engagement and school.
Though school has been where all of my stress has originated this year, it is also the only thing keeping me moving forward. Going to school has given me a sense of purpose and when I am done, hopefully I will be qualified to help others like me who’ve lost everything.
Beyond a sense of purpose, school has also given me new friends. The program I’m in is a cohort style program. This means that I go so class every Thursday night with the same people. My cohort has been together for 2 years now. We’ve been through a lot together as a class and have had a lot of fun. I hope once school is over and that weekly connection is gone, we will find a way to stay connected and remain friends.
The last day of November I had the opportunity to tell my story in church. This is something I have been wanting to do for a couple of years. But I was never sure I really had anything worthwhile to say. To be given the opportunity to share my story was not only an amazing opportunity, it was a healing experience as well.
My photography club has been such a huge part of my support system in many ways. So it’s no surprise to me that they made my list of good things from this year again. This summer my photography club came to Oregon and I was able to show off some of my favorite places. We had so much fun photographing Oregon’s countryside and laughing with each other. I can’t wait for our trip next year.
Besides having a ton of fun with good friends, I learned a lot about myself from that trip. I learned that I am capable of so much more than I thought. I learned that I have some leadership skills and with practice, I could handle doing similar things on a grander scale. As a result, after the group left, I began thinking of another life goal that I hope to implement someday.
All this to say, that even during the worst day, month or year, if you look hard enough you can find something good that happened.
Last week I had an opportunity to share my story in church. It was an amazing experience. I was able to talk about topics I have become very passionate about in front of a large number of people. After telling my story I was able to share how God has comforted and supported me through the people around me. I had the opportunity to describe a little of what grief feels like. And I was also able to talk about how to respond to others who are grieving.
At the end of the video I suggest asking 2 questions before saying something to a newly bereaved person. These questions “Am I saying this so I don’t feel uncomfortable?” and “Am I saying this to make them feel better, or remove their pain?” are to help someone examine why they want to say something. Often times the words we say, though meant to help, can actually cause more pain.
I’ve been thinking about these questions I mentioned in the video, and I realized I left off with an attitude of what not to say. So I’d like to pose another question for you to ask yourself. “How can I show this person I care, or that I love them?”
This is what it comes down to. As grieving parents we need to know that you care. Support doesn’t come in the form of magic words that make it all better. Support comes in the form of people expressing their concern and love. Some of my favorite expressions of support, love and caring were the little things people did.
I loved it when people would come over and clean my house. I was totally incapable of doing small things. Getting out of bed was a major accomplishment. Having people take care of the normal life tasks that were to hard for me made me feel cared for.
My sister used her knowledge of the car insurance industry and took care of all the insurance stuff that needed to be handled. By offering to help in this way, she took a huge burden off my shoulders.
For 3 months cards and gifts poured in. But it wasn’t the gifts that mattered, it was the recognition that we were hurting and needed support.
For a year my cousin sent me handmade cards. She recognized that support was needed long after most of the crowd had gone back to their normal lives. I looked forward to the cards every month and they decorated my table for a long time.
My photography club showed their support in many unique ways. One of my favorites was on the first year anniversary of the accident. They posted pictures on the club page for me and talked about what I meant to them. That expression of caring made me feel so special.
So many members of my extended family flew out right after the accident. It was amazing. They carried me through that first week more than they know. But it didn’t stop there. Other family members came to visit throughout the year. It was so nice to have people coming at various intervals during that first year. It gave me something to look forward to.
My best friend flew me out to visit her in South Dakota. I spent a week with her family being spoiled. She took such good care of me; I didn’t want to go home.
I have an uncle whose story is somewhat similar to mine. He has shared a bit of his story with me and allowed me to ask questions. He has been a wonderful source of wisdom.
One of the most amazing expressions of support came from a wonderful young woman. She organized a gift-giving brigade for my second holiday season without the boys. I didn’t realize what was going on at first. I happened to catch her leaving a gift on my doorstep. She’s such a sweet person; I didn’t think anything of it. The next day I came home from work to find another gift on my doorstep. But it wasn’t until the 3rd day I realized what was going on. From December 1st thru January 22nd, a group of women left gifts on my doorstep. It was so amazing! During the hardest time of my year I had something to look forward to when I went home. I didn’t have to go home to an empty house, which once was alive with my kid’s energy. I was able to go home and feel cared for by the random gifts left on my doorstep. I still distinctly remember the night my favorite gift arrived. I was chatting with my sister on my Bluetooth as I pulled into my driveway. That’s when I saw several paper snowflakes hanging in front of my door. I’m pretty sure I squealed. It was so beautiful and thoughtful. I haven’t decorated my home for Christmas since the accident. But that year I had snowflakes decorating the outside of my house. I left them up for as long as I possibly could, and when I took them down, I saved as many of them as I could.
Each person who has offered me support has done so in unique ways. Many people offered support through prayer. Others supported me by their presence or act of service. Some used their talents or abilities to help me with life tasks or to brighten my day in some way.
Everyone is different. Everyone who grieves does so in their own way. Everyone who offers support does so in their own way. No offer of love or support goes unnoticed or unappreciated. Even if those of us who are grieving don’t express our gratitude, I can promise you we are extremely grateful to those people who show us love, support and caring.
So let me ask you, what can you do to SHOW someone who is hurting that you care?
Last week I received a message from my pastor asking if he could use my story as part of his sermon. I asked if he just wanted to mention my story or if he’d like me to come share it personally. He became very excited at the opportunity to have me speak in-person, so I agreed.
I spent all of last week cycling between being excited and nervous. I even had a moment of sheer panic on Saturday night. .
Yesterday I shared my story and my journey of clinging to hope in church.
I have wanted to share my story for a long time. I am very passionate about grief, how to grieve and how to treat those who are grieving. It was a wonderful opportunity to share my story and my passion in a public forum.
After much prayer, I feel led to help others beyond just one-on-one counseling. I believe my story and my journey can benefit others. With a leap of faith and the support of my friends and family, I have decided to open myself up to speak to groups, churches, and support organizations.
The posted video is my first step down this path. Your prayers and your support is appreciated.
“Come on Mr. Frodo. I can’t carry it for you . . . but I can carry you!” ~ Samwise Gamgee, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
From the very beginning I have been surrounded with a wonderful support system. Because of this I feel very lucky.
When my parents and I finally arrived at OHSU the hospital staff quickly ushered us past the ER waiting room and upstairs to our own private room. I was so thankful for this. I knew many people from our church had filled up the ER waiting room. I would not have been able to handle being around so many people in that moment. But I was so very grateful they were there. In a strange way just knowing they were there made me feel supported.
We had our own private room for the family on the floor of the ICU. There was also another waiting room on this floor. This second waiting room slowly filled with other supporters who showed up at the hospital as the news spread. Friends from college, an elder from our previous church, long time friends and new friends. I was such a mess during this time, I’m not sure I was able to talk to most of those who came. But I was so happy they were there.
When my husband was discharged the following afternoon the hospital social worker said to me “You have the largest support group I’ve ever seen”.
What she saw was only the tip of the iceberg.
The amount of support I have received over the years is truly inspiring. Family, extended family, friends, acquaintances, churches, and even complete strangers, have all supported me in one way or another. With the photography community I was involved in and missionary friends there were people praying from all around the world. Everyday I would hear of someone else, usually someone I didn’t know, who’d heard about the accident and was praying for us. I received cards and gifts from complete strangers. Even today I still have people tell me they’ve been thinking of me and praying for me.
Every time someone told me they thought of me that day, or prayed for me, or sent a card, or gave me a gift I felt supported. Everyone who came to visit or let me talk about the boys supported me. Every time I heard how the accident affected someone I felt supported. Every time someone talked about my boys or shared memories of them I was encouraged. Even to this day the support continues.
I could go on about the support I have received. And I will in future posts. 🙂
I wish everyone who has to go through such difficult times could have the support group I have. I’ve heard terrible things about how grieving parents have been treated. I breaks my heart to hear their stories, and it makes me angry. I get angry when I hear about people who are in pain and that pain is increased because of the insensitivity or downright mean spiritedness of others. And many times it comes from people who should know better. We are supposed to support each other in our pain, not make it worse.
I am so incredibly fortunate that I have not had to experience the mean spirit of some people. I’ve had people say things to me that hurt, but I know they had good intentions. I’ve had people say insensitive things, but not downright mean. Most of the time these people say things because they want to take away the pain I’m feeling.
One thing I’ve learned is you cannot, and you should not try to, take away someone’s pain. But you can make it easier to carry.
I love the quote from Lord of the Rings. It’s near the end of the movie when Frodo and Sam are trying to get into the heart of Mt. Doom to destroy the One Ring of Power. Frodo, burdened with carrying the ring, is exhausted, beat up, completely worn down and cannot move. Sam knows he cannot take the burden of the ring from Frodo, so he carry’s Frodo instead. It’s such a great moment in the movie. But after the accident I saw it a little bit differently, it became a metaphor for my support system. The Ring became my grief, a burden that only I can carry. Sam became my support system, all the people who prayed for me and supported me, were carrying me so I wouldn’t have to bear my burden alone.
Every time I felt the support of others, my burden was lifted a little bit.
I feel like God has given me an incredible gift in the people who’ve surrounded me and held me up during these last few years. I also feel like I’ve been given a glimpse of a vision God had for his church. I believe we are meant to help share each other’s burdens, to support and encourage each other through our pain and struggles.
“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 2 Corinthians 1:4 (New Living Translation)
When we share the burden of grief and pain, we make that burden lighter. We can then turn around and use the support we were given to help support others in their pain.
I can honestly say having the support system I do, has made all the difference in my life. So Thank You to everyone who has prayed for me, supported me, encouraged me and listened to me. I would not be where I am today without you.